Time magazine’s breastfeeding cover: Moms react

By Lylah M. Alphonse

Does this cover go too far? (Photo: Time.com)The headline reads, “Are You Mom enough?” But if that wasn’t enough to fan the flames of the Mommy Wars, there’s the photo that goes with it: A pretty young woman wearing skinny jeans and a tank top, nursing her nearly 4-year-old son. It’s meant to illustrate a story about Dr. William Sears and attachment parenting but, given that there’s more to that movement than extended breastfeeding, it seems as if Time magazine was going for sensationalism and shock value.

It’s working.

Related: Child Star Mayim Bialik still nurses her 3-year-old son. Here’s why…

“Breast feeding is a natural thing to do, but standing on a chair and having mom stand there like she is a water fountain isn’t the way to portray this,” Yahoo! reader, San2, wrote.

“As a pediatrician, I believe that every mother should breastfeed her child for at least six months, preferably a year (even longer if they like),” KP.MD commented. “This, however, is extreme. And the photograph — everything about its composition – sends a message that I find tasteless and more than a little disturbing.”

“That is not the look of a loving and caring Mother, but the look of a defiant woman, daring you to tell her to cover up and/or wean her child,” Yahoo! reader Can’t Deny Truth added.

“We used an image that represents the attachment of a mother and child,” Time’s managing editor Rick Stengel told MSNBC. “The cover is meant to get your attention. It gets your attention. I think this is a legitimate debate. It’s a debate lots and lots of women are having.” (On “Morning Joe,” MSNBC showed the cover but blurred the breast; ABC’s “The View” covered it — and part of the child’s mouth — with a large black dot.)

The mom on the provocative May 21st cover is 26-year-old Jamie Lynne Grumet of Los Angeles, a lactation consultant, breastfeeding advocate, and mother of two who blogs at I Am Not the Babysitter. The child at her breast is her son, Aram, who turns 4 in June. “I don’t consider breast feeding immodest at all,” she told Time magazine. “I’m not shy about doing it in public.”

“There are people who tell me there’s going to call social services on me or that it’s child molestation,” Grumet tells Time, adding that her mother breast-fed her until she was 6. “But people have to realize this is biologically normal. It’s not socially normal. The more people see it, the more it’ll become normal in our culture. That’s what I’m hoping. I want people to see it.”

“There seems to be a war going on between conventional parenting and attachment parenting, and that’s what I want to avoid,” she added. “I want everyone to be encouraging. We’re not on opposing teams. We all need to be encouraging to each other, and I don’t think we’re doing a very good job at that.”

Photographer Martin Schoeller says that the photo, as well as the portraits he shot of other attachment parenting moms nursing their kids, was inspired by the iconic religious image of the Madonna and Child. The boy on the cover is standing on a chair, which makes him look both taller and older — a technique that Schoeller says he used to underscore how unusual extended breastfeeding can seem.

“When you think of breast-feeding, you think of mothers holding their children, which was impossible with some of these older kids,” he told Time. “I liked the idea of having the kids standing up to underline the point that this was an uncommon situation.”

But as Shawna Cohen points out at Mommyish, attachment parenting isn’t all that uncommon. “It certainly got my attention, but it also angers me because it portrays AP moms as being totally extreme,” she wrote. “And in most cases, that couldn’t be further from the truth.”

“I practiced a lot of what Dr. Sears recommended and will never regret it,” a Yahoo! reader confided. “My pediatrician is very traditional and I just didn’t discuss it with him. Unfortunately, this picture has done a great disservice for those of us who believe in attachment parenting and ‘extended’ breastfeeding.”

Though plenty of people seem to think that Time has gone to far — The Atlantic Wire called the cover “PG-13″ and The Right Scoop describes it as “seriously NSFW” and “soft porn” — to others, the photo wasn’t the most offensive part.

“While this picture is gawk-tastic, I’m more disturbed by the title of the article. ‘Are You Mom Enough?'” Yahoo! reader Chrissy from Conroe, Texas, commented. “I’m sorry…’Mom Enough?’ So this woman is deemed more of a ‘mom’ simply because she chose to breastfeed her child until he was damn near as tall as she is?” – Yahoo! Shine

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